Commentary

 

In My Name

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By New Christian Bible Study Staff

Christ Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

In My Name

Three times, in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells people to ask for something "in My name". It sounds very much like he's thinking of intercession, i.e. that Jesus and "the Father" are separate people. But we know they aren't - they are one person. Still, those sayings are easy to misunderstand, and they've caused some confusion for Christians since pretty early on. Let's look closely at the Bible texts, to see if we can get a clearer picture, to understand what Jesus means.

In the Word, the name of someone symbolizes their true quality, or nature. Bear this in mind as you read this article; it will help!

First, here are the three "in-My-Name" passages from John:

"Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I tell you, I speak not from myself; but the Father who lives in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake. Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father. Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you will ask anything in my name, I will do it. (John 14:10-14)

You didn't choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain; that whatever you will ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)

"Therefore you now have sorrow, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. In that day you will ask me no questions. Most certainly I tell you, whatever you may ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full. I have spoken these things to you in parables. But the time is coming when I will no more speak to you in parables, but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name; and I don't say to you, that I will pray to the Father for you, for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came out from the Father, and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:22-28)

These passages are largely parallel, but there are some interesting nuances. In John 14, Jesus says "that will I do". Not the father, there, in that instance. In John 15, Jesus says that the Father will satisfy requests made "in My name", and there, Jesus and the Father sound somewhat separate. Then, in John 16, again it is the Father granting requests. However, this time Jesus makes it clear that there will soon be no appearance of intercession. Instead, he's saying that things are changing. There's a hint that the currently apparent separateness is going to end, and that oneness is the future, actual, reality.

Taking these three excerpts together, it's easy to see why people could be confused, and why "in Jesus' name we pray" could have become a standard Christian formula. But, on careful reading, it's apparent that "in My Name" doesn't necessarily imply two people, as per John 14. What's more, the perceived separateness of "Father" and "Son" is temporary; it's about to change.

To get a broader context, here are some other places in the New Testament where the phrase "in My name" occurs. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all relate the story of the Lord's saying that we should receive little children "in My name". In two of these passages, there are hints of both separateness and oneness.

"Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea." (Matthew 18:5-6)

"Whoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, doesn't receive me, but him who sent me." (Mark 9:37)

Jesus, perceiving the reasoning of their hearts, took a little child, and set him by his side, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in my name receives me. Whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For whoever is least among you all, this one will be great." (Luke 9:47-48)

In this story, we're clearly told to protect innocence. There's still an allusion to separateness, though -- "him who sent me", but here's how we can see this: We can receive "little children" in the name of the Lord. Here, little children symbolize innocence. They're willing to be led by the Lord. If, as adults, we also cultivate that openness to the Lord's leading, then we can receive Divine Truth. With true ideas forming our minds, we can receive Divine Love, too.

In two other New Testament passages, doing something in the Lord's name conveys power, and here there's no mention of separateness:

John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone who doesn't follow us casting out demons in your name; and we forbade him, because he doesn't follow us." But Jesus said, "Don't forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is on our side. For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ's, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward." (Mark 9:38-41)

"These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new languages; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will in no way hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:17-18)

Finally, there's one more applicable New Testament passage. Again, here there's no hint of separateness:

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)

In Arcana Coelestia 2921, There's an interesting discussion of the names of the Lord. Different names used in the Word have different symbolic meanings. In one place in this text, it says, "After the resurrection, the disciples always called Him Lord. You can see this in John 20:2, 13, 15, 18, 20, 25; 21:7, 12, 15-17, 20; Mark 16:19-20. And in John 20:28, Thomas says, "My Lord and my God."

Working back into the Old Testament, we find the "in My name" phrase occurring there, too, but not as often.

In Deuteronomy, Jehovah says this:

"It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." (Deuteronomy 18:19-20)

In Psalms, we find this instance:

But my faithfulness and my loving kindness will be with him. In my name, his horn will be exalted. (Psalm 89:24)

However, if you search for the phrase "the name of Jehovah" in the Word, you get 86 results from the American Standard Version, all in the Old Testament. Common usages include "calling on the name of Jehovah", or "ministering in the name of Jehovah". Again, in the Word, someone's name signifies their real spiritual quality, or nature. The name of God is very clearly important: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain". Blasphemy is very bad. False prophecy in the name of Jehovah is very bad.

Let's go back to the initial question: what does Jesus mean when he tells us to ask "in His name"?

It doesn't mean that we're asking one person to intercede for us with another one, who might be a little harsher. It doesn't imply two people at all. It really means that we're asking the Lord for help by recognizing His true spiritual quality. Jesus is "the Word". He's Divine Truth, moved by love. To ask something in His Name is to approach the Lord from a perspective that is seeking truth, and that is both wise and loving.

The Bible

 

Matthew 18

Study

           

1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.

9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.

10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.